Nova Scotia. The land where lobster reigns supreme and is a treat, even for those who live close to a dock. If you’re lucky, as I have been three times in my life (twice in the last week!), someone will give you some lobster out of the blue. Then, when you eat it, it tastes ten times as good for being a gift. Last Tuesday, at 9:30 pm, I got a phone call offering me nine lobsters if I would pick them up NOW. That meant starting a pots of water to boil at 10, mercilessly stuffing in blue and green lobsters in ones and twos (my pots are really too small), setting the timer, pulling them out when red, and finally finding room for the giant bowl that contained them in the fridge. Then, the next day, I pulled off all the tails, claws and legs, cracked them all open, and ended up with a pile of lobster meat.
The tails are easy. Just cup them in your hand, squeeze hard until the shell cracks, then open them from the front like you’re shelling peas and pop out the meat. If you have a nice big one, those little mermaid fins on the bottom of the tail shell each contain a lovely little fan-shaped piece of meat, too. Personally, I like to pull back the top of the tail meat to reveal the intestine and get that thing the heck out of there. I also take the opportunity at this point to rinse off the tomalley (green mushy liver). The claws and sections of knuckles attached are a little harder. Separate them all from each other, then place each claw on a hard surface and whack with a mallet or the flat side of a hammer until it cracks from one side to the other. Pull it open until you can ease out the claw meat, wiggling the little pincer claw as you go (it might pop out attached, or it might break off. If it does break, you’ll have to fish it out with a toothpick or skewer). For the knuckles, cut through the shell on one side with strong scissors or shears, then push the meat out. For legs (and only bother if they’re from a large lobster) roll the meat right out with a rolling pin. You’ll have a pile of meat that looks considerably small compared to your efforts. I like to slice the tail, leave the knuckle meat, and cut the claws in half horizontally so they still look like claws.
I have learned to really love lobster, but I don’t like the hassle of dealing with the giant bug right at the table. So I go through the above fuss beforehand, preferably the day before. By the next day, I’ve forgotten how gross dealing with lobster is and how cranky it makes me. Then, I simply reheat the meat gently in garlic butter, pop a baguette into the oven, and make a salad. The lobster goes right to the table in the pan, we dip our bread into the juices and eat ourselves silly. No one gets spattered in lobster juice, or stabbed by prickly parts, or feels stupid because they don’t know how to crack a lobster. Best of all, no one wears a plastic bib.
By the way, the second time the lobster miracle happened this week, it was at a cottage resort we were staying at over the weekend. Our neighbour two cottages down offered my mom a bag of five beautiful squirming lobsters. Apparently, the people at the next cottage over had turned them down. I felt bad when they were watching us devouring the lobsters at our outdoor picnic table, so we called them over for a pre-cooked, pre-shelled share. I think we were all happy with our luck, and very grateful to our lobster benefactor.
My Dad and I argued about the relative cruelty of steaming versus boiling. I think I’ve convinced him that live steam is hotter, does the job quicker, and is way easier.
Lobsters (plan on at least 1 ½ lb. Lobster per person)
Put two inches of water in the bottom of the pot and bring to a boil. Add a couple tablespoonfuls of salt. Remove the bands from the claws if you’re crazy (I’m not) and lower as many lobsters as will fit into the pot. Clap on the top and let the water come back to a boil. Start timing. For 1 ½ lb. Lobsters, cook for 12 minutes after the water comes back to a boil. For 2 lb. Lobsters, cook for 14 minutes. Add an extra 2 minutes for every ½ lb after that. Pull the lobsters out with tongs, then eat right away with garlic butter, or let cool (overnight in the fridge if you like) and crack as described above. To reheat, melt a couple tablespoons of butter over low heat in a heavy pan and add a minced clove or two of garlic. Toss in the lobster pieces and heat for about five minutes, turning them occasionally, until warm throughout. Serve straight from the pan at the table with crusty bread and a tangy salad. Lobster freezes very well packed in airtight containers. It’s a fun thing to have tucked away in your freezer, and even a half cup adds an air of luxury to a pasta dish for unexpected company (especially from away), as a garnish for bruschetta topped with tomato and basil, or with a little good mayo, some chopped celery and freshly ground pepper in a sandwich. Let your enjoyment be commensurate with the enormous effort you’ve put in to preparing such a treat!